Francis Lincoln Merritt Jr, 95

Francis Lincoln Merritt Jr. passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on June 1, 2022.

He was born on February 6, 1927, in West Springfield, Massachusetts to Francis Lincoln Merritt Sr. and Myrtle Robertson Merritt, both proud New Englanders with relatives who fought in the Revolutionary War. Frank became a member of the Mayflower Society through William Bradford. He attended Dartmouth College and Duke University and trained as an apprentice seaman in the Naval Reserve during his freshman year at Dartmouth.

It was at Duke University that he met the love of his life, Winn Kern. They were married in her hometown of Washington, D. C. in June 1948, after his freshman year at Yale Medical School, from which he graduated in 1951. Following a surgical internship at Duke University Medical School, Frank spent 4 years operating a 20-bed hospital in Columbia, NC as the only doctor in Tyrell County: family practitioner, OB-GYN, general surgeon and sometimes even dentist. He returned to Duke University Medical Center and completed residencies in neurology and medicine, which led to his board certifications in Internal Medicine, Neurology and Electroencephalography. From 1959-1961, Frank was a fellow at the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Blindness in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1961, Frank and Winn made Lakeland their home with their three children; he was the 17th doctor at the Watson Clinic and the first neurologist in Polk County. Frank was a neurologist at the Watson Clinic until 1990.

During his professional career, he and Winn had a small horse farm in Warm Springs, VA where they spent as much time as his schedule permitted; retirement gave them much more time at their beloved “Longshadows.” Retirement also gave him a chance to renew playing bridge several times a week and he continued playing through the height of the pandemic and afterwards with his wonderfully loyal Tuesday-Saturday group. Frank loved music and was a member of the Dartmouth, Duke, and Yale choirs and glee clubs and was often the soloist. He loved Opera and used retirement time to see several performances live. He could quote poetry and discuss music and literature, but could also fix any car, truck, or tractor and did much of the restoration and construction at “Longshadows.” He and Winn loved riding their horses in Virginia and brought them to Florida when they sold their farm so they could continue to do so. In 2005. Frank and Winn built a retirement apartment where their daughter Robin and son-in-law Matthew S. Smith live and had views of the pastures and horses from their sunroom. His 1951 International Harvester tractor also found a home there and he drove it until he was 92 years old.

Patients and colleagues remember Frank for his gift of practicing the “art” of medicine: listening to the medical issues as well as taking time to listen to patients tell their stories. No one talked to Frank for very long without him gently eliciting a personal story or two. He always loved the outdoors and hiked most of the Appalachian Trail alone. He and Winn visited many National Parks, usually driving, and every state but Hawaii. Their 1950 cross-country camping trip was part of family lore. Frank was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Winn, and his son, Blake Tucker Merritt, USN. He is survived by his daughter, Robin (Mrs. Matthew S.) Smith, and son, F. Lincoln Merritt III of San Diego, CA; three grandsons, Stephen (San Francisco), Michael (Tokyo) and Jonathan (Orlando) Smith; a granddaughter, Chelsea (Mrs. Christopher) Lawrence of San Diego, CA; and three great-grandchildren.

The grants he and Winn established through the Give Well Foundation will continue to be used for donations to multiple meaningful community organizations and needs in the Lakeland area, as well as for scholarships to Peoples Academy in Vermont, which his father attended. Frank was a Member of First United Methodist Church. As per his wishes, there will be a private graveside service. 

Condolences may be sent to the family at Heath Funeral Chapel.